This morning, in one of the most forceful columns I have ever read on the subject, the editors of the Washington Post decry efforts by a majority of the D.C. Council to stop re-authorization of the Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Remember that recently the Council sent a letter packed with untruths about the OSP to Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Post picks out one of the most egregious claims; namely that the plan was unwillingly forced upon the District by meddling members of Congress. Here’s what the editors had to say about that assertion:
“These eight council members seemed unaware that the program was established in 2004 at the initiation of Anthony Williams (D), then D.C.’s mayor, and with the strong support of Kevin Chavous (D), then chair of the council’s Education Committee. Likewise, they were unmoved by polling that has shown 74 percent of D.C. residents support the voucher program, which, despite the specious claims of critics, has improved outcomes for its students without taking a dime from regular public schools.”
But Anthony Williams and Kevin Chavous were far from being alone in partnering for private school scholarships for children living in poverty. My friend Kaleem Caire recently posted the notes from a coalition meeting held almost exactly 12 years ago to strategize on implementing the program and the three-sector approach. Among the 49 people attending the session, and I’m sorry I can only list a few, included Carol Adelman, board president Capital Partners for Education; Joe Bruno, charter school project Sallie Mae Fund; Peggy Cooper Cafriz, president D.C. Board of Education; Caroline Cunningham, Greater Washington Board of Trade; Raul Fernandez, Fernandez Group/Washington Capitals; Terry Golden, chairman Federal City Council; Boyden Gray, partner Wilmer, Cutler, and Pickering; Joseph E. Robert, Jr., founder/chairman Fight for Children; Victor Reinoso, vice president for education Federal City Council; Jim Sheldon, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Bruce Steward, head of school Sidwell Friends; Dr. Elfreda Massie, superintendent D.C. Public Schools; and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archdiocese of Washington.
The Post editors also condemn the fact that the eight D.C. representatives appear so willing to give up the funding associated with the three-sector approach:
“Indeed, the three-sector federal approach has brought more than $600 million to D.C. schools, with traditional public schools receiving $239 million, charter public schools $195 million and the voucher program $183 million. At stake for fiscal 2016 is an additional $45 million.”
It is great to see the newspaper coming to the aid of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. The House is expected to pass the re-authorization today.